How the revolution started?
In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational cannabis use in the United States. Colorado’s bold step was taken in the climate of federal prohibition, causing other states to watch closely for any consequences. The federal government reacted in a quiet manner, turning somewhat of a blind to the state’s legalization of cannabis. In fact, the only sanctioning action taken by the federal government was to frown on banks that had anything to do with the cannabis business — including allowing cannabis businesses to store their cash in any FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insured financial institution.
As the consequences of legalization seemed to be minimal, other states began considering the potential benefits of cannabis legalization. The financial success of legalization was simply too much to ignore. In the fiscal year 2016-17, Colorado collected a whopping $105 million in tax revenue from sales of marijuana. The money collected is being used in the development of the state, particularly in the health sector. Another positive aspect of legalization is the lower number of cannabis-related arrests in the state and fewer people going to jail — a scenario that frees the criminal justice system’s resources for more serious crimes.
The financial success of Colorado led to more and more states following suit, boldly ignoring the federal laws that still consider the plant to be an illegal substance. Following the footsteps of Colorado, 10 states, along with District of Columbia, permit the recreational use of marijuana while 33 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of the drug for medical purposes.
Medical use – Where is it legal?
The latest entries to the list are Missouri and Utah which voted for legalizing the drug for medical use in the November 2018 United States elections. In terms of sales, Michigan is currently the leader with estimated sales of $812 million in 2017, and the trend is likely to continue over the coming years.
Recreational use – Where is it legal?
Currently, 10 states and District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of the drug. These states are:
Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
The latest entry to the list is Michigan, which voted in favor of using the drug for recreational purposes. North Dakota voted against legalizing the drug for recreational use during the November 2018 United States elections — a shocking development given the current legalization trend.
The future of cannabis for recreational use
The momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down for the cannabis industry as 2018 proved to be a fruitful year, given the new states legalizing the drug on Election Day 2018.
In the coming years, the following four states are expected to legalize cannabis in some form or another:
1. New Jersey:
The state is expected to legalize cannabis for recreational purposes. Medical marijuana is already legal in New Jersey, paving the way for recreational use. The state already has a framework for regulating cannabis and licensing growers and sellers.
2. New York:
New York has been a hot topic in the marijuana industry. With the majority of states legalizing the drug in some form or the other, New York, being a major metropolitan city, is sure to follow suit. The state can utilize the lessons learned by other states, if legalizing the drug for recreational use.
Maryland remains one of the states lagging behind in the legalization trend. Over the years, the state has moved towards less constructive laws about cannabis. Though the current governor is a Republican, the dream of legalizing the drug is just within in the realm the reality.
By 2022, the American cannabis market is expected to grow to a whopping $22 billion. It’s difficult to imagine any state being satisfied with sitting on the sidelines with such numbers being the norm.
Final Word — Imminent changes to Federal laws concerning Cannabis
According to ArcView, a cannabis research firm, the North American market grew by 34% in the last year alone and reached a figure of $6.9 billion. With the rising spur of legalization, the use of the drug requires person-specific federal laws. Despite federal laws prohibiting cannabis use, states legalize the drug. This is a sign of increasing public support, which in turn drives public policy.
As of today, however, many states’ legal cannabis businesses function as cash-only enterprises due to banks’ hands-off policies regarding cannabis businesses — all due to the federal government’s continued prohibition of the drug. Eventually, public pressure, along with pressures of American business and investors, can be expected to sway federal legislation legalizing the use of cannabis.